Final Thoughts on the Course

After realizing today that I never wrote my last blog post, I decided to finalize it by writing about my greatest takeaways from the course.

One of the greatest thrills I get from movies is knowing that I can experience what the character is experiencing while I’m watching it, but afterwards, I can remove myself from that experience and move on with my life. Reading novels and books about people with threatening and painful diseases and conditions, I had a similar experience. While reading each book, I felt empathetic for the characters facing that experience, but afterwards, I moved on with my life knowing that I wasn’t in the same position.

At first, I thought this thought process was extremely selfish. I felt bad for feeling good that I wasn’t in the other people’s position. However, after reflecting more on what I was truly feeling, I realized that it was the feeling of being grateful. I was grateful that knowing of how many conditions, diseases, viruses, and overall pain there is, I was lucky enough to be gifted with good health. These books gave me perspective of my own privilege, to have access to health care and hospitals, and not need to worry about my health constantly. I feel thankful for having this privilege in life, and this course made me reflect on how I shouldn’t take it for granted.

Final Thoughts on Contagion

The movie Contagion has not left my mind since we watched it last week. To me, it was worse than a horror movie–unlike a movie like It, which I avoided, Contagion tells a story that could potentially come true.

I keep coming back to the question: what is the moral of the story? It can’t be just to not eat meat; to wash your hands seems too simple. Rather, I feel that the moral, if there is one, is about the fleetingness of life and how nothing is guaranteed. The people killed are chosen at random, simply by contact with the virus. While it is true that Beth was a flawed character, her little boy had done nothing to deserve his demise.

This idea that it can happen to anyone absolutely terrifies me. If destruction is so  thoughtless and random in the movie and in the world, one could really never be too careful. However, to wash your hands every five minutes is not the solution. Maybe, instead, the answer is to savor the moments we’re given since the next is never guaranteed.

I did not like the movie Contagion, probably because it genuinely freaked me out. However, it did its job as a piece of literature and made me think.

The Absence of Music in Never Let Me Go

The only existence of music that the readers see in the novel is of Kathy listening to her cassette tape, and singing. This begs the question: why do we not see more of music, either being performed or listened to, throughout the novel?

While the students are allowed to create visual art, they are never seen (aside from Kathy) to write songs, play instruments, or even sing. From the little appearances that music makes in the lives of the Hailsham children, it is frowned upon. The year Walkmans start appearing on the campus, they are a scarce commodity, and have such a profound impact on the students. The guardians, on the other hand, seem to disapprove of them, arguing that they might cause “ear infections” (103). As readers, we never hear of the Walkmans to be mentioned again, suggesting that they were taken away. We do know that Kathy’s tape was taken away several months after she was caught by Madame dancing and singing to the tape. However, we aren’t given the reason.

Kathy tells us that, “[T]his one song, it really got to me. [My] interpretation didn’t fit with the rest of the lyrics. But that wasn’t an issue with me. The sound was about what I said” (70). Unlike visual art, music evokes activation in the amygdala and the reward areas of the brain. This is why humans, and Kathy, respond to music with emotion. Music allows for more individualistic expression, and can bring groups closer together, as was seen with the circles of Hailsham children gathering to listen to someone’s Walkman.

Could it be that Kathy’s tape was taken away on purpose? Would listening to music make the clones appear too human? There may be a purpose to keep them distanced in not expressing emotion too much. Emotion also fosters empathy. Kathy appeared more empathetic, and tried to take Madame’s perspective when she told Tommy about her encounter with Madame.

Music may also foster rebellion. If it helps express other emotions, why not those that are hostile? It is the danger that music can be associated with so many emotions that prevents the guardians from letting the Hailsham children have access to it.

One Last Thing

I was going to bring up a serious and unfortunate event that’s been going on in Libya in class when Professor Oerlemans, or someone else, compared the duties of clones in Never Let Me Go to slavery, but I just didn’t have the courage to raise my hand and speak up about it without cracking my voice.

When we talk about slavery, we talk in past tense because for us, it’s something that we think has been resolved and something that will never happen again. Sad to say, there has been a slave trade going on in Libya, where 400,000 to almost one million refugees and migrants are forcibly kept at detention centers, and have been, are, and will be sold off as laborers in slave auctions.

BSLU put up a bunch of paper posters about this issue around the campus at the start of this week, but because of the crappy weather, a lot of the posters were ruined, therefore a lot of people didn’t get the chance to learn about this grave issue, and why I’m writing this blog post.

Dehumanization is the biggest sin we can commit as human beings! I know we differ in physical features, beliefs, ranks, and in gazillion other ways, but we all have a moral compass inside us that distinguishes between what’s right and wrong.  Slavery is wrong and there is no reason why anyone should argue otherwise.


  1. I urge you all to first educate yourself about this issue and then bring awareness by telling those around you

See this link to get a better understanding:

  1. Write to US ambassador to the UNITED NATIONS/ Libya

  1. Sign a global petition for the U.N Security Council to take immediate action:


Libyan Liberation


Music in Film

Music is a form of communication with the audience. Perhaps, it’s manipulative in the sense that it is used to influence how people think or feel towards the screen. However, music seems essential in some aspects of movies. Music is used to draw the audience into the film. Music is used to make the audience sympathetic towards what the characters are feeling, so they come to understand the purpose of the character’s torments and triumphs. Music has a conversation with the audience’s heart. It urges the audience to cry with the character, to race with the character’s terror, to laugh with the character’s joys. In the beginning of Contagion, the fast paced music is used to add suspense. It’s a clue to the audience of what they should expect and prepare for. The suspension of the music hints at the ramping epidemic that is about to unfold. It insinuates that there is something darker concerning the character’s cough or the ways the people are interacting. Out of context, a little cough or people sharing nuts at a bar wouldn’t cause the heart to race — unless you’re a germaphobe. The music is used to tell the audience that there’s more to the scene, that they should be nervous. It adds to the dramatic irony. Music does influence a person’s feelings, but it is not a scary weapon at the disposal of film makers. It’s an art that adds to the art of film. It’s a vessel for compassion between the characters of the story and the listener.

Some modern books I’ve read suggest playlists to listen to at different parts of the books, or the authors will mention on their sites that certain songs helped them shape parts. Music is used as a tool to make the reader or listener understand the story on a deeper level. It adds to the experience.

Music on top of film can even be for smaller purposes. Without the soundtrack on top of intros to shows, the opening credits seem a bit weird. The familiar songs that open beloved shows become distinct to the show. Whenever I hear the song “I’ll Be There for You,” I’m warmly reminded of the show Friends. Without the song at the beginning of Friends, it makes the intro awkward and pointless. Here’s a link of what it might be like without the music:

Clearly, music adds something to the experience of the viewer.


Contagion – How it Made People Morally Sick

Something that I found very interesting about Contagion was its portrayal of how people treated each other after the disease spread. People were literally pushing and shoving each other to obtain the supposed cure. Wait – not even to just get the cure, people did that to even get food. It was so chaotic and nobody really cared about anyone else. While this portrayal seems realistic, because let’s be honest people are selfish, it is so pessimistic. It was like the disease was affecting more than just the people’s bodies, it was making them sick morally. I guess a reason why that happened was because in the situation presented in Contagion, the main point shifted from living a decent life, to just living. People did not care how they acted because it just mattered to them that they survived. They did not care if a woman was pregnant or if there was a child in front them, all they saw was the cure and they did anything they could  to get it.

It was also horrible how this disease did not stop greed. For example, how one of the characters (the businessman/blog writer) lied about a certain chemical being the cure to the disease and made so much money off of it. He did not care that people were dying, he did not even care that he or his loved ones could die, he just cared about making money. To make this situation worse, he made bail, so he did not even face the consequences for his actions.

Societal Breakdown in Contagion

In the film Contagion, the deathly spread of an unknown disease causes societal breakdowns in multiple cities. While it may be difficult to see yourself acting violently or breaking into stores and pharmacies, the psychology of people in the movie Contagion is realistic. Unlike a natural disaster or terrorist attack, epidemics and infectious diseases will most likely tear people apart. People stop thinking about others when their own lives or their family’s lives are at risk. Infectious diseases also have an isolating effect given that being with other people and being outside would spread the disease much faster. In terms of violence, people might believe they are going to die anyway, so they act in ways that they would usually never behave in. If most people are going to die in the epidemic, then they cannot get in trouble for their violent actions during such a frantic time.

In addition, there would be a divide between doctors/scientists and everyone else, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Doctors and scientists are some of the few people who can try to find cures for the disease, but they are much more likely to be exposed to the disease when helping patients or when working with a sample of it. When, or if, the cure is found, doctors and scientists would be the first to receive it. They can help others with the disease and not get infected themselves. To everyone else, it may seem as though doctors and scientists believe they deserve to live more than other people. In an epidemic situation, people lose their rational thoughts and go straight to what they need to do to keep the ones they care about alive. Most people will think they deserve the cure more than anyone else. It is hard to imagine such well developed societies resulting in complete breakdowns, but it is a completely realistic possibility for this specific situation.

Would the World be Ready?

With many posts about Contagion, I have been thinking a lot about how the world would respond if there was an outbreak that was spreading too fast to contain. In the past, there have been outbreaks, including SARS and Nipah, but they were sooner or later stopped. In the movie, they discussed the R0 value, describes how fast the disease will spread. I read an article about this value ( and it explains that it is calculated based on the infectious period, contact rate, and mode of transmission. If there was a an airborne disease that had a long infectious period and people who had it were in fairly public places, would the world be able to handle this effectively?

There are many regulations about making and distributing vaccines, as evidenced in the movie. My question is how long and how severe would the epidemic have to be before people ignore the regulations to try to do anything they can to control it? In some way the regulations seem like they would hinder the ability to control the epidemic but at the same time, they are there for a good reason so that people who pay for or receive vaccines know they are getting something that will actually protect them and it is not just some scam. If a vaccine was released that didn’t actually work, it might have terrible side effects or give people false hope and further facilitate the spread of the disease.

A Closer Look at Contagion

If there is one thing I learned from my Introduction History & Theory Film class is that your reaction to a film/movie is never wrong and never relevant to the analysis of the film/movie. So, for this blog post, I’ll try to make my points without emphasizing on whether I liked Contagion or not.

In the first scene, when Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) is on the phone, we see her right hand with a ring, but she is conversing with a guy with whom she had a one night stand with, so this leads us to assume that there is infidelity, the first conflict of the plot. Next, we see a bunch of zoom shots that forces us, audience, to fixate on one object at a time after a character has touched it, signaling that physical contact is crucial to whatever we are about to find out next. We see few individuals around the globe showing symptoms of loss of energy, possibly fever, feeling faint, dizziness, and sweating; when the model, Irina (Daria Strokous), collapses to floor, we now know that all the zoom shots and symptoms were leading up to a fatal epidemic, the main conflict of the plot.

We see several fast-paced scenes with excessive people on the screen, which makes us feel agitated, serving as a perfect metaphor for the virus itself, which is transmitted instantly and causes great discomfort.  The discomfort is also conveyed by several other scenes where the screen seems to shake as the sick people, infected by the virus, struggle to walk or stand, and blurriness as they are about to have a seizure. The epidemic, aside from being a possible reality in the future and an allegory for the outbreaks of the past, touches on the subject of selfishness, an innate quality of humans. When there is a shortage for cures, the crowd goes crazy and acts beastly to show that they are capable of doing anything for their own need. The epidemic also hints at how people in higher rank, in this case Dr. Ellis (Laurence Fishburne), seem to mix up personal priorities with professional duties: Dr. Ellis gives the vaccine to his romantic partner before giving it to the rest of the public.

The virus in Contagion was modeled off a combination of influenza and Nipah, a virus that inflames the brain and causes respiratory difficulties. Interestingly, Nipah outbreak in the past were due to human contact with infected pigs in Malaysia and Singapore, and the pigs were infected from consuming fruits that were contaminated with urine or saliva from infected bats in Bangladesh and India. So, the last scene in the movie, Day 1, was quite realistic. It’s also very clever of the director/producer, Steven Soderbergh, to put Day 1 in the very end because this disables us, audience, from quickly blaming someone or something for the epidemic; the unclarity of who or what the antagonist is a big reason why we keep watching the movie till the end, despite knowing what it’s about from the obvious title.

Check out this article:

Lastly, if any of you are interested in films, I would highly recommend taking Introduction History & Theory Film (ARTH 120) with Professor Scott MacDonald in the Fall semester. There is so much more to the film industry than the commercial movies we love and complain about, and this course will teach you that.


Thoughts on Conatgion

In the movie Contagion, I thought it was very interesting how they portrayed the epidemic and spread of the disease. They filmed the scenes with subtle details that were very significant towards the plot of the story. Hence, I noticed this from the beginning immediately (that is why I yelped). In the beginning of the movie, the camera emphasized small, yet, significant details.  They would focus the camera on the characters’ hands and appearances.There was emphasis on where the characters would place their hands in almost every scene. This was to indicate how the disease was spreading. I believe one of the main characters from one of the storylines claimed that people touch their faces approximately 8,000 times a day.  This suggests that in order to film a movie about disease and contagion , it is significant to record those subtle details. This allowed the audience to follow the disease and make sense of it. In addition, this movie indicates how easy it is for new diseases to spread. One person’s negligence to wash their hands after dealing with raw meat lead to a global epidemic. It makes you rethink how you treat your personal hygiene and if you really are aware of your surroundings.